Thursday, 16 February 2012

Struggling through the Verbosity

Just what is it about Ephraim Radner that he has to enter every article or essay for the Rowan Williams's Prize for Verbosity and Confusion? Take a read of this:

To this extent, "procedural justice," in the sense of a robust framework of regulated debate, deliberation, and decision, with the regular possibility of subsequent revisitation of a controverted matter - a liberal political notion -- may be an ideal that has little value in a culture of easy choice. For persevering in the engagement of "procedures" demands loyalty and committed voice both, and both of these are diluted by too much choice. On the other hand, it is precisely when procedures are no longer trusted, or when their engagement does not in fact give constructive scope to voice, that they are abandoned, whether physically or emotionally. (The real analogies with the Anglican Communion are here obvious.)

Not obvious to me, and I like to think that I have a working brain. In his 1502 different words or items and 5673 total Words, in 135 paragraphs, he is saying something like this (and I could well be wrong):

In a declining body, one with issues of contention, a person getting less benefit from membership can either exit or voice. Exiting rises with greater external choice (and similarity elsewhere), but loyalty gives rise to the exercise of greater voice for change and provides information for why others might be exiting. This is particularly important for businesses of connoisseur goods and services where quality needs to be maintained rather than allowing price to fall, and so strategies to build loyalty and quality are important.

Thus is Albert O. Hirschman (1970), Exit, Voice, and Loyalty: Responses to Decline in Firms, Organizations, and States, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Radner uses this in regard to the ongoing Indaba project between Anglican Churches at different levels.

He is saying, I think, that people can leave or they can voice their protest at The Episcopal Church as it continues its slow road to inclusivity, which he must regard as a lowering of quality. However, it is not clear that Hirschman's model is being used properly by Radner.

Indaba (I am saying) properly and fully means a large council where all issues are thrashed out and many have their say, exhaustively, to a point where a decision is made. The Anglican version of Indaba is this, but in smaller groups and without a decision. The Covenant would instead provide processes too that involve decisions of relational consequences (should it come into being - a majority of English dioceses so far are rejecting it).

Presumably the idea is that Indaba gives expression to voice, that is draws on loyalty so that people can voice their complaints and, normally, would allow the organisation to improve and reform. However, in this Anglican case, he is saying, the voices are different and fundamentally at disagreement. Thus the voices (plural) can only ever show the extent of the disagreement, rather than any means towards agreement.

This is on the issue of sexuality, of course. For one side thinks that people of active gay relationships cannot be in ministry, nor can any of these unions be blessed, whereas the other side (and the one in the ascendent) in terms of The Episcopal Church, considers that baptismal theology includes all of these people and blessing of their stable relationships.

Is this clearer?

There are other choices now, too, like the cobbled together Anglican Church of North America, and there are all those GAFCON entryisms coming to the British Isles too. Such choices must mean an easiness of exit, so that many of the conservative side simply walk from The Episcopal Church and join one of the continuing Churches as with ACNA. Loyalty gets transferred. No doubt there will be an ACNE or ACBI soon, perhaps following a yes to the ordination of female bishops and/ or the collapse of the Covenant in and among the English dioceses.

Ephraim Radner then goes into biblical stories for other parallel means of making Christian Churches, on the presumed basis that what happened in the Bible is normative for later on. I'm afraid I both got lost and disinterested (in the non-economic and negative sense) but he goes on to see people exiting TEC on the one hand and an asymmetry where TEC might be exited from the [first tier? of the] Anglican Communion on the other (and to exit in this sense might be its own decision or the Standing Committee's, I suggest).

So he arrives at Indaba as useful for coming up with terms of exit. Really? I doubt it can even achieve that.

Does he think that a Church of England that ordains women bishops and is itself struggling with gay and lesbian inclusion is going to want to 'exit' The Episcopal Church? How many Churches are going to join it with this? What exiting would there be with no Covenant? The exiting in fact has already been underway - what ACNA did and what GAFCON is about, although entryism is a perverse form of exiting because it turns exiting into a form of return journey undermining. And what of CAPA, meeting recently, of the Global South and all that, which ignored the GAFCON produced alternative structures?

Rather, we see a lot of exiting and a lot of balkanising into types of Anglican Churches - but less rigid if no Covenant. Perhaps the Indabas might come to one voice of loyalty, that the Covenant is a dud and would only offer high-level rigidity.

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